By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Each song on Johnny clocks in at two or three minutes, so when there's novelty it isn't overwrought and when there's a message it's swiftly and directly wielded.
The Crash That Took Me
120 Minutes had a baby. Its name is The Crash That Took Me.
Crash is reverb and chorus pedals and harmony straight from the place that made girls cry at simple, somber My Bloody Valentine lyrics and made guys decide they needed to be more sensitive when they rock. And, by the way, that's not called being a pussy—that's what we older folk once called a 4AD band. Go back and look at those VHS tapes with videos of the Stone Roses, the Jesus and Mary Chain, MBV and Cocteau Twins. There's a reason we still have those CDs in our collections.
I realize that Crash has gotten flak for their light shows and inconsistent live performances, but I think that comes with being a new band. You gotta get used to everyone's doings onstage—yes, even if members of Crash have played together before. That being said, Orchestrated Kaleidoscopes sounds like it's coming from a band that's been together for a long while. It flows perfectly, and it dabbles in simple lyrics, romanticism, reverb and some feedback ("Explosions in the Mind"). But the things that are really impressive are the harmonies between Dylan Silvers and Fatima Thomas. Silvers has really exercised his range with this project, steering away from the rockier baritone howls of his [DARYL] days. His voice is vibrant and even more emotive ("Celebration of Color and Light Within the Kaleidoscope"). Thomas' vocals have an inherent energy that matches Silvers' well, and her feisty parts take songs such as "Julianne" to a higher level.
Kaleidoscopes is a throwback pop/rock homage to the bands that obviously inspired this veritable mash-up of local bands. Luckily, it enraptures listeners and pulls at sentimental heartstrings with enough of a modern edge that it's not just a flat-out rehash. Staying power is everything, though. Hopefully Kaleidoscopes lasts as long as those VHS tapes.
Denton's trio of impressive résumés and finely honed talents has a little gem in no. 7. It's not much, just the standard two-song vinyl 45 (though with it comes a burned disc containing both the 7-inch tracks as well as two demos, "Carbonade" and "Measured Against"), but it's something. The Shellac-ian (yeah, I said it) contributions to Tre Orsi's first actual release are complex, memorable and satisfying. "The Illustrator" (side A) is an act in focused, restrained aggression—the kind that only comes from learned musicians. Howard Draper's vocals offer an accessible grounding for guitars that could and would go anywhere and everywhere if this was the song of a different band. Thankfully, it isn't. Drummer Brian VanDivier amazes, as he does live, with his mathematic precision and keen use of cymbals to elevate the drama of the band's material.
Sometimes the whole two-singer trade-off bugs the shit out of me—when it affects the flow of a set or when one is clearly a better vocalist (kinda like on that last Shellac album, come to think of it)—but Tre Orsi doesn't have that problem. Both Matthew Barnhart and Draper are both more than capable vocalists, and their singing styles are surprisingly meshed. A flip of the record, or skip of the track, and there's no love lost as Barnhart takes over vocal duties on "Faulkner's Blues." It's a more subdued track to start, but "Faulkner" is a sleeper-builder that once again exercises this insane restraint as some sort of sordid tease before all-out unleashing into a virtual cold-cock of a finale. It is, I think, the musical equivalent of watching the prosecutor pull out damning DNA evidence at the last second of a trial.